THE Covid-19 pandemic may do well do what has never happened in the long history of the ever-popular Eddie Hart Football League. Running consecutively since 1967, the League might for the first time not have a full competition as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which has decimated sports worldwide.
The League is the country’s longest consecutively running football competition and caters for the most teams in Trinidad and Tobago. National footballers of many generations have participated in the competition.
Founder Eddie Hart is a former Tunapuna Member of Parliament for the People’s National Movement (PNM) over three terms and a 15-year period.
Along with his organising committee, Hart has annually held the competition at the Orange Grove Savannah in Tacarigua, East Trinidad, where it has catered for as many as 80 teams in six divisions, comprising youth, senior, men and women.
The League has produced quite notable players in its years of existence from cricket icon Brian Lara to football stars like former national player and coach Russell Latapy, goalkeepers Clayton Ince, Kelvin Jack, Errol Lovell, and standouts Ulric “Buggy” Haynes and Ron La Forest from the 1960’s and 70’s among others. But with as many as 50 new Covid cases reported on Saturday, Hart thinks issues surrounding the current pandemic are bigger than football.
“I am frightened to expose people’s children by having them come out on the grounds,” Hart stated, “I am very fearful about that.”
“We have been there for 54 years, but I personally am very concerned like everyone else with the pandemic,” Hart added. “We have a lot of juveniles who play in the League, so I am monitoring things to see if it will boil down.”
Hart’s competition normally begins in August and finishes in the second week of December. But he felt the dangers posed by Covid-19 had to be taken seriously, even if it meant having no football.
“Football will always be there. The game will always be there, but the pandemic will not always be there. Hopefully we get over it. Some people say two, three years. We really don’t know because there is no vaccine yet, so I’m playing it safe,” Hart declared.
“I am still monitoring things and if it cools down and I have to have a truncated version just to keep the tradition going, I will try to do something probably in October or November. If it is possible to have a shortened version over a week or so, then we will do that, “ Hart added.
A former player with the famous Malvern team of the 1960s, Hart highlighted the serious effect the coronavirus was having on sport by pointing to the cases of Brazil and the United States. The two countries combine for nearly half of the world’s over 18 million infected persons and over a quarter-million deaths.
”The death toll is alarming all around the world. Look at Brazil, they have lost so much as far as football is concerned. Look at how they are reeling under pressure. They do not have places to bury people now,” Hart said.
Up to yesterday morning, Trinidad and Tobago had 279 confirmed cases and eight deaths. However, Hart commended Government’s proactive approach in closing T&T’s borders in March, halting the progress of the virus. Hart felt that he too might have to make a sacrifice to help in the fight against Covid-19.
“I am very frightened for these young people. This thing is a silent killer. We can’t see it. You don’t know who have it, so we have to be careful,” Hart said.